Against the odds
Against extraordinary odds, unions are winning for workers, even in places like Myanmar, Ukraine and Madagascar. Participants at #MRT2016 in Montreal, Canada have been learning more about the unions behind these amazing stories, and finding out how they can use their experiences in their own unions.
Independent Federation of Myanmar Seafarers (IFOMS)
IFOMS faced government opposition, a country with no tradition of trade unions and a society riddled with corruption. Despite this, since being founded in 2014 they have won nearly USD 3m in back pay for seafarers. They were helped by an ITF inspector organising campaign. In six weeks inspectors visited 91 ships in 24 countries, met 1019 seafarers and recruited 419 new members. You can read more about IFOMS in the Seafarers’ Bulletin http://www.itfglobal.org/en/resources/reports-publications/seafarers-bulletin/seafarers-bulletin-no-30-2016/
Syndicat Général Maritime de Madagascar (SyGMMA)
SyGMMA now has 3,000 members, after starting from nothing in October 2002 when 12 Malagasy seafarers threatened a strike for an ITF agreement. They have done this despite being in a country with poor communications infrastructure – only 10% of the population has internet access. Now the members of SyGMMA are training and educating seafarers before they join vessels, so they can be on-board organisers and stewards.
Marine Transport Workers Union of the Ukraine (MTWTU)
Unlike IFOMS and SyGMMA the MTWTU is long established, but is adopting new organising approaches to reach out to seafarers. It will soon work with the ITF inspectors to promote the union with serving seafarers, educate them about their rights and build workers’ power.